Editor’s Note: While the author of the story is a member of the LaxAllStars.com staff, he’s played plenty of lacrosse on many continents and we love his honest opinions of the events. With his travels, Brian has seen the game from many different angles and we wanted to hear his experience of playing for a House Team instead of the well-known squads that typically scoop him up.
In my opinion (and a lot of other’s), the Lacrosse All Stars North American Invitational is hands down the premier men’s box lacrosse tournament on the continent, and arguably the world.
I figured I’d save some folks the trouble of reading this entire article and just come out and say it. If you weren’t there, you missed out. Plain and simple.
Now Keep Reading
21 teams put their best foot forward this past September 28-30th on the Onondaga Nation. These 21 teams ranged from all over the United States and Canada, as well as teams representing the Czech Republic, Israel, and a number of different First Nations teams representing many different regions of the Iroquois Confederacy.
This boost of nine teams up from the inaugural event held last year practically doubled the tournament not just in number, but in the average level of play. Not every new team was an all-star program, but they were each a step in the right direction and forced opponents to either bring their best, or lose.
I was fortunate enough to get to play in this second LASNAI. I played in the first as well, with the good ole boys of the Nova Scotia Privateers. Scotia was unable to make it back this year, so instead, I ran with the Lacrosse All Stars House Team. It’s worth noting that I write for LAS, I “work” for LAS (washing dishes is work. Lacrosse is fun. Work can’t be fun. Science.), and so I figured it was high time I played for LAS as well.
Roll of the Dice
Playing on a “house” team can carry some almost negative connotations. By definition, it’s a team that the house puts together, so you aren’t necessarily picking your team, the team picks itself. Inherently, sometimes you can get a lesser talented team, with the thought process being that any talented players would be wanted and picked up by other teams.
Truth be told, I really wasn’t planning on winning too many games going into this weekend. By no means am I anything close to talented, but I’ve got enough buddies here and there that I usually find a home one way or the other.
This was a different house team, and I think that the quality of this house team speaks to the caliber of the tournament.
The Exciting Part
We weren’t bad!
I don’t think too many guys had delusions of grandeur of winning the championship or anything, but the boys could pass, catch, and run. That might sound over-simplified, but if you can do those three things, the rest is up to how hard you want to work for the win.
The first game was a riot.
We squared off against the Rochester River Monsters, which happened to be the team I played for in the Can-Am this summer. Playing against your buddies always throws a bit of spice in the pot, and it was a lot of fun playing against good players who are even better guys.
Adding to the significance of the game, we were squaring off in the outdoor box. This was the Onondaga Athletic Club’s original facility that goes back many generations. The outdoor box hasn’t gotten much TLC since the Onondaga Nation Arena was constructed in 2000 and even less with the completion of the Onondaga Nation Pavilion in 2015 when the Iroquois Confederacy hosted the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships.
The box wasn’t terrible by any means. It was a little short (which was appreciated), but the added emphasis on crazy bounces off the natural grass and the aging wooden boards kept the ball wild and unpredictable, which led to some interesting games.
May Never See THAT Again
We topped Rochester by one, which would be one of three one-goal games for the LAS House Team, including an overtime upset win over the Lasersharks Neon.
The one goal that I really don’t think I’ll ever forget from the LAS vs ROC game came seconds into the second half.
As per usual, teams change ends at intermission. The first draw of the second half gave us a weird bounce that rolled right to one of our defender’s feet. In his first-ever box game, this player (who will remain nameless, unless you ask me his name) grabbed that loose ball, did a roll backwards towards our goal, assumedly to get away from pressure and begin our outlet.
He then proceeded to wind up and let it fly, staring down Brent, the unsuspecting goalie. Nailing the bottom-left corner of our own goal, he turned around and gave one of the biggest celebrations I’ve ever seen, tossing the salute to our bench.
When he realized what he’d done, it was pretty damn entertaining to watch the pure elation and joy turn to utter horror. Adding to it, he had just tied up the game for Rochester.
This was his first goal in his first box lacrosse game, regardless, so I started yelling for the referee to give the ball to this kid, as is tradition. The official looked at me in a “you can’t be serious” type manner, but I yelled it enough times that he did in fact give our guy the ball.
In all fairness, that player did get a LOT better throughout the weekend. I think a number of guys did, as we were one of the lesser experienced teams in terms of box lacrosse. We had a number of your typical American field guys, but by the end of the weekend I think we got away from the “I’m going to split dodge down the alley and miss by a mile, then give the other team a breakaway around the boards” play and started getting some really cool offense together.
Honestly, I think we did as much as possible with a team full of guys that didn’t know each other’s names. We came together as a bunch of really good dudes who were willing to just do their own jobs for the greater good of the squad.
A Van, a Comedian, and a Police Officer
One quick anecdote, speaking to the quality of our team, relates to my beloved two-bedroom Dodge Ram Van.
One of our players, Greg, is a comedian, and his playing at this tournament was contingent on a comedy show he was doing in Ithaca, New York on Friday night. The only thing Greg didn’t count on was that Ithaca and the Onondaga Nation aren’t exactly close, even if they look like they are on a map.
Greg was in a pinch, asking if there was a bus (there isn’t) or how much a cab (triple digits) would be. I reluctantly pulled the keys out of my pocket and tossed them Greg’s way.
He dropped them.
I just handed over the keys to the only thing I own in this world nicer than my Cascade R. He said that was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him, to which I joked that his life must be pretty shitty.
Greg proceeded to get pulled over for driving around with the brights on in town.
The cop asked him if this was his van.
He said no.
The cop asked who’s van it was, and he couldn’t remember my name, which was only fair, because I couldn’t remember his. He said the cop let him off with a warning, which astounded me.
Greg shrugged his shoulders and said he got the “shittiest cop in Ithaca.”
The Spirit of the Weekend
This was just one example, but there were dozens of little things that guys were doing for each other. Sharing food and drink, guys borrowing all sorts of pads and sticks from each other in the locker room.
The greatest bond between strangers can exist when they’re all wearing the same uniform, with the same mission. We all knew that we couldn’t beat any of these teams by ourselves, so it was better to try and win as a team as opposed to winning on individual efforts.
The Courage Game also hosted their own House Team. The Courage Game is a wonderful organization run by Nick Welton and since day one, Nick and the Courage Game have advocated that the game of lacrosse is for EVERYONE. They work for equality and to spread the good word of inclusiveness using the wonderful game of lacrosse as a vehicle.
I can’t think of a single better thing for an organization that promotes inclusiveness to do than to set up an open-invitation “house” team. Offering the opportunity to play box lacrosse in the premier men’s box lacrosse event on the PLANET, regardless of talent level or experience is just an awesome concept.
It’s For All of Us!
The spirit of the LAS and Courage Game House Teams was really what this event was about. If you wanted to play, you could play. Whether you’re a team from Nashville, or Cleveland, or Radotin, or you came from Texas just to play one game, or if your last name is Thompson, you belong.
The LASNAI is for you. If you want to play, you can play. If you want to watch, you can watch. The spirit of our little lacrosse community grew stronger and closer this past weekend, and it really does the heart well to see professional lacrosse players and regular guys like me all get to share the same floor.
Where else do you get to play with the best in the business? Do you get to golf with Tiger or race your Chevy Malibu against Jeff Gordon? Tell me the last time you got to try and tackle Aaron Rodgers? First timers played again Dhane Smith, Kyle Buchanan, and a dozen other NLL stars, and next year, you can too!
We’ve got an amazing little balance in our game. It’s thanks to events like the LASNAI that we can preserve this excellent relationship between players of all ability levels.
If you weren’t there, that’s on you.
If you don’t make it next year, then I really must be doing a terrible job describing this wonderful event… that’s totally a possibility.
Whether or not this article has peaked your interest isn’t really important. I do hope you’ll take it to heart when I say that the LASNAI really is heads above any other event like this on the planet.
Yet, instead of listening to me, you really just have to experience it for yourself. See you in 2018.